Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Three Things Excellent for Anyone

I have always made it a point to learn as much as I can from as many sources as I can but, like everyone, I do have my favorites. There are some sources that speak to me more deeply than others, and these I have returned to time and time again throughout my life. The nature of this blog has made my fascination with such subjects as Zen koans fairly obvious, but I have not gotten to spend quite as much time with some of my other favorite teachers. My family tree traces most of it roots to Celtic countries, and my love of that heritage has always led through some wonderful resources, not least of which being the Triads.

While triads are not uniquely Celtic - similar themes and formats can be found in many ancient cultures and relies largely on the usefulness of mnemonic patterns - the association is common, and one of the most famous collections of triads is Trecheng Breth Féne, "A Triad of Judgments of the Irish", more widely known as "The Triads of Ireland", which contains about 214 triads and is dated to about the ninth century. These triads were used as a handy way to impart lessons on life, belief, and philosophy in a culture that taught most of these lessons by way of memorization. The old Irish were not illiterate, as is commonly assumed, and made extensive use of written language in record keeping and accounting, but they had a robust oral tradition that was the heart of their educational system.

This week, I want to present some of my favorite triads, and I hope you enjoy both the history and the ideas inherent in them. Let me know what you think.

Three things excellent for anyone: valor, learning, and discretion.

Three things which strengthen a person to stand against the whole world: Seeing the quality and beauty of truth; seeing beneath the cloak of falsehood; and seeing to what ends truth and falsehood come.

Three manifestations of humanity: Affectionate bounty; loving manner; and praiseworthy knowledge.

Three things without which there can be nothing good: truth; peace; and generosity.

Three beautiful beings of the world: the upright, the skillful, and the reasonable.

Three things by nature cause their possessor to err: youth, prosperity, and ignorance.

Three things must be united before good can come of them: thinking well, speaking well, and acting well.

Three things it is everyone's duty to do: listen humbly, answer discreetly, and judge kindly.

Three antagonists of goodness: arrogance, passion, and covetousness.

Three rewards of those who learn to temper their emotions: experience, strength, and introspection.

Three manifestations of excellence : the honoring of parents, the respecting of the aged, and instructing the young.

Three candles that illume every darkness: truth, nature, and knowledge.

There are three companions of lawlessness: pride, envy, and rapine.

Three roots of every evil: covetousness, falsehood, and arrogance.

Three things which end ill: falsehood, envy, and guile.

Three chief things which deceive people: fair words, desire of gain, and ignorance.

Three things it is no worse to lose than to keep: wealth, youth, and love of the world.

Three things of which only the happy and wise beware: the breaking of oaths, drunkenness, and vanity.

Three chief attributes of a person likely to do wrong: an angry countenance, an arrogant spirit, and an insatiable covetousness.

Three things needful to one who has done wrong: to acknowledge their wrong, to seek to be upright, and to make restitution.

From three people keep yourself: the joyless, the mocker, and the one who laughs at lawless doings.

Three rude ones in the world: a youngster mocking an old person; a robust person mocking an invalid; a wise man mocking a fool.

Three things better than riches: health, freedom, and discretion.

Three things as good to lose as to gain: extreme prosperity, extreme praise, and extreme dignity.

Three littles which do much harm: a little of bad disposition, a little of injustice, a little of negligence.

Three things , little of which shows much wisdom: little conceit, little covetousness, and little gossip.

There are three falsehoods: a falsehood of speech, falsehood of silence, and falsehood of demeanor.

There are three foundations of law and custom: order, justice, and peace.

Three things which come from peace: increase of possessions, improvement of manners, and enlargement of knowledge.

There are three things which lay waste the world: a king without counsel, a judge without conscience, and a son without reverence.

Three things which bring a person the love of their neighbors: to be a peacemaker, to be a helper, and to be a guide.

Three things which bring a person respect among their neighbors: supporting themselves , being wise in their counsel, and being kind.

Three things which the good poet preserves for posterity: memory of the praiseworthy, delight in thought, and instruction in knowledge.

Triads are a popular and useful method for expressing teaching moments. Before anyone asks, they don’t all come from one source and they are not all historically accurate. Wherever possible, the people who collect these usually do try to be as accurate as possible when dealing with statements that were passed down orally for many generations before they were ever first written down, but there is an obvious limitation to that goal. In many cases, the first people to write them down were not even from the same culture, so some inaccuracies were bound to slip in right from the beginning. Triads are not Holy Writ, by any means, but they are good thoughts, and are good to think about. I hope you enjoy.

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